By Dana Niland
U.S. demand for travel to Cuba is making a steady comeback.
Since May, tour operators like insightCuba, are seeing increases in leads and bookings, while new hotels on the island are about to launch and U.S. airlines are increasing routes.
“Early signs of a comeback began in early January but were inconsistent, with ups and downs through April, but then in May, something started to happen,” Tom Popper, president of insightCuba told Caribbean Journal. “For the first time in over a year we are showing consistent signs of growth in the marketplace. Each month sales revenue is growing by 25 percent as compared with the previous month.”
But there’s more.
Due to confusion surrounding U.S. travel regulations last year, group demand was at an all-time low, according to insightCuba.
However, since July, the company has seen a 10-fold increase in group requests which are translating into fully deposited bookings, including an increase in multigenerational families as well as professional organizations.
Travel agent inquiries are also increasing, he said.
When comparing June to September 2017 with the same period this year, there is a 40 percent increase in bookings for individuals, groups, and families on tours like the seven-night Classic Cuba, four-night Jazz In Havana, and three-night Varadero + Havana, the company said.
The Cuban government has reported an increase and is optimistic of hitting their goal of 5 million visitors in 2018.
That’s part of continued strong performance for the country’s tourism sector overall, including more and more hotel growth.
Indeed, Meliá hotels is adding 2,145 new hotel rooms through hotel renovation or construction by the end of 2018 in key spots where Americans visit including Cienfuegos, Camaguey and Varadero.
Iberostar is also opening two new luxury properties in Old Havana (The Grand Packard Hotel), and eastern Cuba (Iberostar Holguín), while renovations are also underway for the famed Hotel Riviera in Havana.
There are now five U.S. commercial airlines providing nonstop service from the U.S. to Cuba including jetBlue, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Airlines – with new routes launching in November and beyond.